Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Fish Report 12/03/14

Fish Report 12/03/14 
Dagnabed Forecast Changes.. 
Adding Friday 
Recent Letters  

Three Two Long Sea Bass Trips Coming: Now Offering FRIDAY & Saturday, Dec 5th & 6th - $125.00 - Friday 6:30AM to 3:30PM - Sat, 5:30AM to 3:30PM - Weather Looks Good! (although its bouncing around is driving me crazy) Light Rain Isn't Supposed To Come Until Late Afternoon Saturday.

All Winter Trips Announced Via Email Only. Times, Prices & Species Will Vary. 

Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Are Common - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way..  

It's Winter! Wear Boots, Not Sneakers! Fingerless Wool Or Thin Fleece-Lined Waterproof Gloves With Handwarmers Tucked Into The Palms Make For A Comfortable Day..

Be a half hour early! We always leave early! 
..except when someone shows up right on time. 
Clients arriving late will see the west end of an east bound boat. 

Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure.  
If You Suffer Mal-de-Mer In A Car You Should Experiment On Shorter Half-Day Trips First! 

Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. 
Bring Lunch & Your Refreshment – No Galley. Bring A Fish Towel Too.. 

If You Will Not Count & Measure Your Fish, The State Will Provide A Man With A Gun To Do It For You. We Fish By The Rules - No Exceptions!! 

The OC Reef Foundation Aims To Build Its Single Largest & Most Expensive Concrete Reef Deployment Ever. Progress Is Being Made In Getting Bids. The Capt Bob Gowar Reef Will Become A Cornerstone Of Our Nearshore Reef Restoration Efforts. (even if it's early next year!)

10,726 Reef Blocks by the rail – 3,000 at Jimmy Jackson's – 2,136 at Doug Ake's – 1,182 at Saint Ann's – 558 at Eagle Scout Reef - 557 at Lindsey's Isle of Wight Reef and, just begun, 118 at the Brian Sauerzopf Memorial Reef.. 

Greetings All, 
Fishing for sea bass has been very kind. 
Getting out to them, however, has not. 
Now calling for almost flat calm, I'm going Friday if I have to go with just my crew. Seriously, if no one buys a ticket, I'm going anyway. 
Cancel, Cancel, Cancel. I hate chicken. 
Not really, I just want some fish while the good folks of .guv will let me get after them.

Guess I'm getting old. 
Was hooking up 1980s stereo in my workshop. Had to buy a used CD player online because no one was selling new ones like I wanted. Got ready to test the system when mate Wes finds some "best of" Eric Clapton in my CD collection. 
Sweet. That'll work. 
Hard-working eighteen year old mate Tyler says, "Who's that?" 
Oh man..

On another front, I carried a lady fishing who does stories for radio newscasts. Sandy had a little blurb about our day locally - this 6 minute piece supposedly went worl-wide. Maybe we'll enlist Belgians & South Africans in trying to get NOAA to recognize & study our nearshore reefs.. 

Thursday & Friday should see the first Chesapeake Bay artificial reef built from boulder. Big boulders too. 

Working all the time to restore sensibility to marine governance. Yesterday I wrote letters to the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership (Yes, ACFHP, please do tell NOAA we have reef habitat within 110 NMs of Washington, DC) & the Army Corp of Engineers. 
ACE denied a reef permit renewal for Great Gull Shoal. (Russell's Reef) The permit was first written in 1951. Now they're worried we might be covering-up ancient shipwrecks or American Indian sites 5 miles offshore and want us to fund a study for a place I know far, far better than my backyard..   

Today I wrote the letter below to the MAFMC concerning sea bass regulations and participated in the conference call for the sea bass advisory committee. 
If you also believe MRIP's estimates must be wildly untrue, send your state's fishery representatives a letter too. 
If you live in Belgium or South Africa, just write to the Consulate. 

Fishery Management For US Reef Fish Is Broken. 
MRIP and its predecessor, MRFSS, have caused it. 
I believe we are squandering fantastic opportunities..


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

Capt. Monty Hawkins  12/03/14 

Greetings to All Concerned with New Recreational Sea Bass Regulations & the Decline of Management's Scientific Basis In Fact, 

It is fantastic beyond belief that our system of fisheries governance is dependent on MRIP statistics self-admitted to be wildly inaccurate. The centerpoint of PSE* is not the most likely part of a catch estimate, it is merely the center. Anywhere in a PSE spread could be the absolute answer to, "How many fish did they catch?" (*Not in original letter: PSE is similar to 'margin of error' in a political poll. Below you'll see a graph with PSE represented by dotted gray lines. That Private Boat catch is between 1,350,000 & 3,900,000 pounds with a centerpoint of 2.2M or so.. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the actual catch was around 300,000 pounds instead of 3 million!)

So far as many statisticians are concerned, management's 'centerpoint only' use of statistical catch-estimate spreads is their own doing. Statisticians recommend managers use the spread in it's entirety. 
Our system of regulation grew comfortable with "turn of the crank" management for this 3rd tier fishery. Just straight MRFSS/MRIP centerpoints thrown into present-day regulation schemes have sufficed for almost two decades. 
That comfort is now gone. 

While MRIP assigns unbelievable catches to Private Boats in a single wave/single state, I've yet to hear anyone complain about Private Boats fishing a reef down. I have, however, often heard of Party Boats being accused of fishing a reef down. Just recently, in fact, my own Party Boat was accused by Private Boat anglers of fishing down a huge artificial reef (the Radford) that my boat contributed a significant amount of money to. My boat was also accused by a commercial drop-pot boat of "catching all his fish" on wrecks offshore of northern Virginia's coastal waters. 

Still more anecdotal evidence is seen among RSA disputes: Complaints of 'catching all the fish' off individual reefs were often based on perceptions of For-Hire RSA catch. Just one Party Boat was accused of 'fishing down all the good spots before season opened' in an area now thought by MRIP to account a vast majority of recreational sea bass landings. 
Not only does this illustrate the importance of habitat fidelity in fantastically small definition, it is also vital regulators understand this point: At sea the concern is of Party/Charter fishing reef habitat too hard, not Private Boats.  

Regulators will ask MRIP suffer no 'reality check.' 
Although MRIP paints a picture of Private Boats fishing uncontrollably in newly-warmed waters; Coast-wide, For-Hire landings teeter at their lowest-ever historical landings owing to ever more restrictive regulation. 
Again, at sea the real concern is recreational For-Hire boats, or even commercial trappers, fishing individual reefs down. 
When production & extraction factually decline over a reef, everyone blames professionals 
..except MRIP. 

MRIP Annual Sea Bass Landings - For-Hire (Party/Charter) All Atlantic Waters 
MRIP Annual Sea Bass Landings - Private Boat - All Atlantic Waters 

Searching for truer results, sometimes far below or far above even PSE, can be accomplished with knowledge of a region's 'percentage of the fishery' splits. Management should determine from at-sea operators what the 'percentage of the fishery' is for sea bass, among other species. 
For instance, it would be rare indeed for Private Boat effort to comprise even 15% of Maryland's BSB landings, while in NJ a 50/50 split between For-Hire & Private Boats might be more ordinary. 
If known values existed they would swiftly raise red flags for closer scrutiny when woefully imbalanced MRIP estimates occur. 

For Instance: Massachusetts' professional operators that I've spoke with have, literally, laughed out loud at MRIP estimates. Many have told me Private Boats account, at best, half the sea bass landings.. 

Here, however, are MA's Wave 3 splits by year:  
2009 MRIP BSB split 52.7% For-Hire. 
2010 MRIP BSB split 8.3% For-Hire. 
2011 MRIP BSB split 19.5% For-Hire. 
2012 MRIP BSB split 33.6% For-Hire. 
2013 MRIP BSB split 48.1% For-Hire. 
2014 MRIP BSB split 13.0% For-Hire. 

If Massachusetts' Party/Charter is catching just 8% of that state's sea bass, then 92% of the anglers targeting sea bass on well-known rocky bottoms ought to be in Private Boats. Because Private Boats carry far fewer fishers than For-Hire per-boat, it is therefore necessary that fantastically more Private Boats would be seen engaged in the sea bass fishery than For-Hire. 

In closer examination of this idea: Among many instances, it has been described to me that two Party Boats & 3 charter boats were fishing a large area of reef off Massachusetts. Instead of the four private boats also fishing on this particular day; according to the split as shown by MRIP's estimates---instead of the 10.0% Private Boat extraction those For-Hire anglers actually witnessed on this particular day at this particular reef: there would have to have been 278 private boats to balance MRIP's estimated levels of extraction against For-Hire effort - not just 4 Private Boats. 

Here too is a look at the incredibly high NY Private Boat Wave 4 estimate from 2013.
This table represents what all Party/Charter caught along the whole east coast in all of 2013. 
All For-Hire
Atlantic Coast
YearCommon NameTotal Harvest (A+B1)PSEHarvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)
FINAL2013BLACK SEA BASS203,08211.7333,72412

This is what MRIP claims NY's Private Boats Caught in TWO SUMMER MONTHS of 2013. 
YearWaveCommon NameTotal Harvest (A+B1)PSEHarvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)
FINAL2013JULY/AUGUSTBLACK SEA BASS237,23933.1511,13234.7

Here's the same estimate broken down by region fished. 
NY Private Boat 
By Fishing Area
YearWaveCommon NameFishing AreaTotal Harvest (A+B1)PSEHarvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)
FINAL2013JULY/AUGUSTBLACK SEA BASSOCEAN (<= 3 MI)109,18249.9224,86551.5
FINAL2013JULY/AUGUSTBLACK SEA BASSOCEAN (> 3 MI)104,91652.4236,69955.3
NY Private Boats Are Asserted By MRIP To Have Caught Almost As Many Pounds Of Sea Bass Inside NY's STATE WATERS As Every Party/Charter Caught On The East Coast Combined. 

But Wait! 
MRIP further asserts NY's private boats, alone & in just two months, caught more pounds of sea bass than the 2009 to 2012 Commercial Sea Bass Trap average of 337,000 pounds ANNUALLY! (2013 & 2014 are unavailable) 

According to MRIP and NOAA/NMFS/MAFMC's present day use of MRIP's estimates; Congress & their fishing constituents must accept deepening regulation as a necessary evil because NY's Private Boats, in the summer of 2013, very nearly outfished all professional Party/Charter AND Commercial Trap effort along the entire East Coast of the United States. 

Management accepts MRIP's values as fact, yet no one ever reports seeing fleets these catches would factually require, and virtually no one would ever believe small Private Boats from one East Coast state could outfish all US Professional effort. 


Black Sea Bass grew to their greatest population of the last 50 years with virtually no closed recreational season & with fantastically less recreational regulation. 
Despite crushing increases in regulation, the sea bass population over the entire management area has declined precipitously during the last decade; yet the sea bass population is undoubtably swelling in a small area where warming waters, a boisterous scup fishery, and unbelievably restrictive regulation have allowed these fish to go unharvested while spawning production --always defined by habitat fidelity in reef fish-- surges amid newly warmed granite bottoms.

The traditional fishery withers while what is essentially scup bycatch shoots to the moon. Scientific back-pedaling of "Population Shift" owing to warming waters withers instantly when expansion of the nearly unregulated sea bass fishery in Gulf waters is considered. 

In the greatest fraud ever sold in fisheries, regulators fret endlessly over Private Boat landings from perhaps even just one state, in just one wave, that, unbelievably, nearly exceed the entire Atlantic Coast's For-Hire & Commercial Trap landings. 

Mahi-Mahi require almost no management around the world because "their biology makes them resilient to fishing pressure.*" (*NOAA Fishwatch) 
Mahi (dolphin-fish/dorado) begin spawning in the first MONTHS of life. Regulators marvel at their productivity & cheer commercial & recreational effort on. 
Back when ALL of our sea bass were spawning during age-one, with some sea bass spawning even in the first months of life--back when it was correctly thought all sea bass had spawned by 9 inches, some twice; the Mid-Atlantic's population climbed straight-up despite greater & greater recreational & commercial removals. We know sea bass in those early years were resilient to fishing pressure because they spawned young. 

They were so resilient to fishing pressure that their population in the traditional fishery's Mid-Atlantic region grew exponentially despite rising extraction. 

Sea bass's five-decade population high was just six years into management - 2003. Although we can  extrapolate a far-higher still population from trawl/trap landings of the 1950s, is was during the early management period when we had our greatest population & population increase of current memory. 
That population grew exponentially in precise meaning, it doubled & doubled with no recreational bag limit & no closed season. Back then there was only a size limit that forced sea bass to start spawning young and a recreational release ratio that ran about 30%.. 
Not using PSE is destroying the sea bass fishery. Accepting centerpoints with no managerial consideration of veracity is turning fisheries science into a sham. 

Management should demand MRIP not re-create the Pony Express with mail-in surveys, not move back decades or even centuries, but utilize Capt. Bellavance's already developed idea for a smart-phone app: Management must demand MRIP move catch estimates forward!  

If management continues to accept data that is hopelessly incorrect, our chances of truly succeeding in fisheries restoration will be as throughout all of history when regulators seized upon faulty information
..we're going to lose; already are.
I beg the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council to reconsider their course. Instead of an unrefined MRIP as regulation's primary guide, instead of accepting MRIP's press releases that their "repair" of MRFSS has been successful even though they have yet to suffer any test of "saltwater registration" in their data; Instead of outrageous & impossible assertions of catch, managers must  utilize Habitat Ecology & Population Biology; must Utilize Historical Stock Trends To Develop Restoration Strategies That Work. 

We struggle under the weight of the implausible; Once simple truths of management are grasped it will swiftly become possible to take sea bass populations far higher than any currently dare believe. 

Monty Hawkins 
Party Boat Morning Star 
Ocean City, Maryland

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